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Influential Avant-Garde Artist Jacqueline de Jong Dies at 85
Accidental Encounter by Jacqueline de Jong. Photograph: Album/Alamy

Jacqueline de Jong, the Dutch artist and influential figure of the 1960s avant garde, has passed away at the age of 85.

Known primarily for her paintings, De Jong also delved into sculpture, printmaking, publishing, and jewellery. Her work, deeply rooted in themes of violence and eroticism, engaged fully with the revolutionary politics of the era. This earned her a reputation as one of the 20th century’s most courageous and honest autobiographical artists. At the opening of Tracey Emin’s Dutch retrospective in 2003, an incident where De Jong fell into Emin’s infamous tent artwork, “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With,” was described by The Guardian as “an entirely appropriate, if unintentional, homage.”

Born in the Dutch town of Hengelo in 1939 to Jewish parents, De Jong’s early life was marked by wartime turbulence. During World War II, she fled with her mother to Switzerland, aided by the resistance after a brief capture by the French police, who intended to deport them to the Drancy internment camp. Initially aiming for a career in acting, she trained at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama before her artistic journey took a dramatic turn.

Her life in art began to solidify after meeting Danish painter and Cobra group founder Asger Jorn in 1959. They shared a tumultuous 10-year love affair. A year later, she joined Guy Debord’s provocative Situationist International. After being expelled from the group, she responded by editing and publishing the experimental Situationist Times between 1962 and 1967, offering a collaborative space for writers, poets, and visual artists.

During this period, De Jong exhibited her work across Europe. Her series, “Accidental Paintings” and “Suicidal Paintings,” combined violence with humor. She was not married to any particular genre, seamlessly shifting from abstract expressionism to figurative paintings and addressing diverse themes from war and sexual desire, most notably in her humorous 1966 series “Private Lives of Cosmonauts,” to billiard players in the 1970s, and even misshapen potatoes in the 2010s.

De Jong also actively participated in the civil unrest of May 1968 in Paris, producing and distributing posters while marching. In 2009, she co-founded The Weyland de Jong Foundation with her second husband, Thomas H Weyland. The foundation supports avant-garde artists, architects, and art-scientists aged 50 and over.

A decade later, she received the outstanding merit Aware prize – a French award recognizing women artists – in acknowledgment of her six-decade career. Her artistic integrity and activism remained radical to the end. In a 2017 interview with Frieze, she expressed her desire to have the Situationist Times digitized and made available online, stating, “I think, at this moment in particular, we need to be reminded to be disobedient.”

Source: The Guardian